Saturday, October 31, 2015
Thursday, October 29, 2015
A couple of years ago Sarah and I were blessed with a gift to see The Nutcracker Ballet. I had never been to see a live ballet before. It was magnificent! Not only the ballet was wonderful, but the music was as well. Having been a music major in college for a while and loving music, I had an appreciation for the orchestra that played the great score written by Tchaikovsky.
When I found out that I had the opportunity to review The Nutcracker by Maestro Classics I was excited. I really want to pass on the gift of music to my children. We have reviewed other great CD’s from Maestro Classics and they were wonderful so I expected none the less with The Nutcracker. I was not disappointed at all. It was fantastic like the rest. Let me tell you why Maestro Classics sets the standard for passing on the love of music to children – at least in my opinion.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
We have been blessed with being able to review writing curriculum and spelling curriculum from the Institute in Excellence in Writing (IEW) before and we have loved everything that we have reviewed. However, we have never reviewed any of their resource items. In fact, I never knew that IEW had any resource items until we had a chance to be chosen to review a resource pack of three individual items from this great company. Let me tell you right up front that we were totally blessed. The three items that we were able to use and review were Timeline of Classics, Teaching With Games Set, and A Word Right Now. I would buy any of these items without hesitation – they are that good! Let me talk a little bit about each one and how we have used them.
Section A – Character Traits contains 23 traits that cover everything from Anger, to Curiosity, to Gossip, to Wisdom. For each trait there is a definition, a thought on that trait, excerpts from Classical Literature and words for that character trait that are Nouns, Adjectives, Adverbs, Verbs, and even what the author calls “Nouns Characters”. For example, a noun character for Cheerfulness might be a buddy, a nurse, or Pollyanna among many others. I really like how this section is set up and know it is going to be a valuable tool for everyone in our family, including me!
Section B – Description Words cover words that describe appearance, color, size, time, temperature, texture and shape. I love this section. Since each description word is different, there is no set way that this section is set up. For example, on the Words to Describe Size pages it lists adjectives for Large Amounts, Small or No Amounts, Large Sizes, Medium Sizes, Small Sizes, Open Spaces, Tight Spaces, and Length and Width, Height and Depth words. However, in the Words to Describe Color section it lists adjectives for all of the major colors and then lists adjectives for Attributes of Color such as Dull, Neutral and Strong, then lists nouns for Values of Color and Words for Light. I have never thought of some of these things. I know this will make a big difference in my writing let alone my children’s writing.
Section C – Words for Movement and the Senses has words for Feet, Hands, Hearing, Seeing, Smelling, Speaking and Thinking. Again, different things in this section require the pages to be set up differently. For example in the Words for Feet section there are Nouns Related to Feet. You can find Things to Put on Feet, Words for Human Feet, Words for Animal Feet. Places for Feet to Move, and How Feet Might Move. Then it contains Verbs for Moving Feet such as Faster Movements, Graceful Movements, Slower Movements, Awkward Movements and Other Foot Actions.
The Senses sections have a plethora of words as well. Words for Hearing has words for Animal Sounds, Object Sounds, Human Sounds, Loud Sounds, Quiet Sounds, Things that make Sounds, and even has words for Listening and Verb Phrases that deal with sound. This section truly has everything you can think of!
Section D – Appendix is not a section to be skimmed over and not looked at. It has some great information that will help you write well including Playing with Words, Transitions, Prepositions, Literary Genres and Definitions and Examples of Literary Devices.
As you can probably tell from my totally inadequate descriptions above, these three resources are keepers for us that we will use and turn to over and over again in our homeschooling and beyond. You can find out more about these products by clicking on the highlighted links above. IEW is a wonderful company and many other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed other items than what I did. You can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!
Monday, October 26, 2015
Friday, October 23, 2015
It didn’t happen overnight but gradually. When I first joined the Schoolhouse Review Crew several years ago, we were asked to review other natural items. It began with homemade laundry detergent and then natural cookbooks. Many of the folks on the crew were very much into healthy eating and natural living. Slowly we began embracing that type of lifestyle as well. We saw how it benefitted our autistic kids and, really, the whole family. When we had the opportunity to review some products from Koru Naturals we were very excited. As the name suggests, these products are made with natural ingredients and, these products are from New Zealand! We were chosen to review three item – their Skin Clear Cream, Manuka Honey Propolis Soap and Emu Oil and Blue Tansy Oil Cream. We have absolutely loved them all!
When we first received the package and I opened up the Skin Clear Cream 4oz container of cream, it had thinned a little because of being in the mail and in the heat. Soon, however, it turned back into a creamy substance that smelled wonderful. The scent was fresh and very non-cosmetic. The main ingredients are Manuka Honey, Manuka Oil, Kawakawa and Harakeke (full ingredients can be found on the website).
I have to be quite blunt here. About once or twice a year I suffer from cold soars that often appear on my chin. They usually go away rather quickly, but this year they were being stubborn. When I received the Skin Clear Cream I decided to try in on the sores. I was amazed when I first put it on. It comes with a plastic applicator, but, being a man, I'm not used to using those so I just used my fingers. Almost immediately I could feel my skin tighten. It really was cleansing my face. Within a couple days those stubborn sores were gone! I don't like using cosmeticy substances on my face, but, I don't mind using Koru Naturals, Skin Clear Cream. It is natural and it works. This is a keeper.
We are picky about what we use on our skin and especially the boy's skin because all three of them have skin issues of one sort or another. We have had no problems with this soap. It almost looks like two bars of soap put together. One side almost looks like a glycerine type soap and the other the creamy type soap that usual bars look like. While preparing for this review, I was talking to my wife about the soap and she said she loves it. She said that it makes her skin feel clean and fresh, more so than regular soap. I have to agree. As I stated, we have tried many kinds of home-made natural soaps and this ranks right up there with the best. This one is also a keeper for us!
Being a little over middle aged with young children, I often experience many aches and pains. I hate to use over the counter creams but often do. Since this mixture of Emu Oil, Blue Tansy Oil, Aloe Vera, MSM and other natural ingredients (once again you can find a full listing on the website), is, well, all natural, I was not nervous about trying it at all. I love it and it works. The directions say to use it two or three times a day, but I use it as needed on my aching muscles and on my hands which, although not diagnosed, are suffering from a little arthritis. I am very pleased with how will this has helped and I am definitely going to continue using it! Once again, this is a keeper.
As you can probably tell, we are very pleased with Koru Naturals! If you have sensitive skin or have tried other products that don't seem to work for you, I would definitely recommend looking into their products. You can find information about the three products above by clicking on any one of the high lighted links above. These and other products from Koru Naturals were tried by other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew and you can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Well Living!
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
I know that it isn’t Sunday, but it is sometimes amazing to me what God points out to me during my Bible reading. Today this strange verse caught my attention in the book of Nehemiah.
After him Baruch the son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section, from the Angle to the doorway of the house of Eliashib the high priest. – Nehemiah 3:20
What a strange verse for God to point out to me. My first reaction was how neat it must be for Zabbai, who is now probably in Heaven, to have his name mentioned in the Bible as someone who did his work zealously for the Lord. It is such a small verse that I’m sure is overlooked by many people. Most folks, if they read that passage at all, more than likely just skim over those verses without remembering any of the names or any of the walls or gates of Jerusalem that were being repaired. However, there it is in print that Zabbai was zealous in his work in repairing his section of the wall – from the Angle to the doorway of the house of Eliashib.
I looked back to make sure, but as far as I could tell, no other person was said to have worked zealously. There names and places that they repaired were just mentioned and that’s it.
My second thought was that is how I would like to be remembered. I want to be remembered as someone who zealously works for the Lord. In order to do that I have to carefully examine my life. Am I zealous in everything I do? Am I doing things for myself so that I get the credit or am I doing things for God so that He gets the credit? Am I always trying to do my best with a good attitude – not just a good attitude but a zealous attitude?
I know that the Bible is complete. There will be nothing more added to it. However, in God’s eyes, I want to be seen as just as zealous in my work as Zabbai was. And, I want to be zealous for all of the right reasons.
Lord, Help me to be zealous for all of the right reasons. Help me to work zealously for you and not for myself. Help me not to do things for my glory but for yours. Help me to not be lazy in my work or to do my work half-heartedly, but zealously. You deserve all of the praise and honor, Lord. Whatever I do for you is just a pittance compared to what you have done for me. Thank you Lord. - Amen
Sunday, October 18, 2015
Before I go into the content of this excellent video, let me tell you that the quality of this video is excellent, So many organizations are putting out videos that have worthwhile content, but aren’t necessarily well done. Living Waters is very well done. The cinematography is breathtaking, and the animations are first class. This is no haphazard low budget video. This is very well done.
Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth sets out to dispute the theory of evolution by giving examples of four sea creatures that are so complex that there is no way that they can be the result of natural selection and random changes.
It gives the example of a sea turtle and how, after it hatches, can travel thousands of miles but twenty five years later, in order to lay eggs, can still locate the exact place where it hatched by using a complex internal magnetic compass.
It gives the example of a pacific salmon where, after born, can make there way down stream and down river to the pacific ocean, travel over half way to Japan then circle back to find the exact tributary, river and stream where they were born by using a map of smells and other chemical signals.
Dozens of mammals, birds, insects and reptiles have similar migration systems as the sea turtle and pacific salmon. Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth explains how it is virtually impossible for completely unrelated things to evolve in the same way.
It gives the example of the Hump Back Whale and how complex this enormous creature is yet evolution claims that this sea mammal must have evolved from a land creature. However, scientists have shown that just two of the many mutations that are needed to happen would take 100 million years to to complete, However, geological records show that the earth is only nine million years old. This is a puzzling thing to many evolution scientists. Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth explains all of this as well.
Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth is fascinating! I learned so much from this 68 minute DVD. The added beautiful cinematography and fantastic graphics are just an added bonus to all of the knowledge that you will gain. Although much of the information is advanced and probably wouldn’t be totally understood by even teens and adults, Living Waters is done in such a way that even a young child will gain something from it. It is truly a video that the entire family would enjoy. My kids each gave it two thumbs up!
To find out more about Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth and Fishflix, the company that we received Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth from and has many other family videos that you may purchase, just click on any of the highlighted links above. Many other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth and other videos from Fishflix.com and you can find out what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
I chose the Progeny Press Sarah, Plain and Tall Study Guide that is downloadable and interactive for several reasons. I had read Sarah, Plain and Tall by Sarah MacLachlan and knew the story so that helped. It was also considered and upper elementary - first through sixth grade level unit study that was right in the middle of where the boys were and seemed to fit them both.
I really liked the background info that they provided for the book. It really helped me gain an understanding of the time period and the way of life of the people who lived on the plains during that time. I had read the book before, but if I hadn't, the summary would have been excellent for me as well. Both of these sections helped or would have helped me when going through this study with the kids.
Just as the background info helped me to get ready for the story, the "Before You Read Activities" helped my boys to get ready. We love geography so the suggested map work activities were a given for us. The pen pal suggestion was also really neat. We know a lot of people from around the world since we are missionaries, but I had never thought about a pen pal for the boys. We may have to try that one. Some of the other suggested activities were to do some history research, some discussion questions (which we also used and was very helpful) and a read aloud story that was set in the same time period.
Saturday, October 10, 2015
She was a lot more than just my mother-in-law, she was like a second mother to me. She was also a fantastic mother to my wife and grandmother to my children. I am so glad that she is not suffering any more, but she will be greatly missed. We did a lot together as a family. She was my wife, Sarah’s, best friend. Life is going to be a lot different from here on. We’ll just have to get used to a new normal. It really hasn’t sunk in yet.
Here is her obituary. Thank you so much for all of your prayers for our family. Please pray for my kids. They were very close to Grandma and, as time goes by, it will be very difficult for them. We have two on the autism spectrum I am not sure how this will effect them as time goes by but it will be hard for all three of them.
We love you Mom but we know that you are kicking it up with Jesus right now!
Thursday, October 8, 2015
So, why should the fact that Jacob is reading be such big news? Well, Jacob is our nine year old developmentally delayed child who is also on the autism spectrum. He is high functioning and is very intelligent, but as much as we have tried, he hasn’t mastered reading. Really not even the easiest words. Although he loves to be read to and has very high listening comprehension, and although he soaks up math and does very well, he can’t decode the letters and words that are required for reading. It has just never clicked. We have tried various methods and curriculum, but it just has not worked. What we think he has mastered one day he totally forgets the next day. It’s as if he had never seen it before.
To tell you the truth, I was a little skeptical of ASD Reading (Autism Spectrum Disorder Reading) from Reading Kingdom. Jacob had tried other online reading programs and, well, as you know, nothing had worked so far. However, I was willing to try anything at that point, so I was excited to see my name on the list of reviewers chosen. Almost immediately we go started and, to my great pleasure, Jacob absolutely loved it.
The first thing he did was take the beginning placement test. There is an earlier section that I could have started him at, but it was a section for children who aren’t familiar with a keyboard or a mouse. Jacob was very familiar with a mouse, and, although he didn’t know where all of the letters were on the keyboard, he was familiar with using one. The placement test found that Jacob was weak in sequencing and wasn’t able to quickly find the letters on the computer keyboard. Both of those things are very important in using this program and sequencing in particular is important in learning how to read. If a child can’t sequence the letters he is reading correctly, then he will more than likely not be able to correctly decode and read it. Hmmm…I wonder if sequencing could have been one of Jacob’s problems all along.
So, since sequencing and keyboarding were weak skills for Jacob he was placed directly in “Seeing Sequences” and “Letter Land”. In Seeing Sequences Jacob was taken through a series of exercises where he had to look at a group of letters or a word and then remember the order to recreate that group of letters or word. If he was incorrect or if it took too long for him to remember, he was gently guided to doing it correctly. If he was correct, then he was rewarded with animated figures bobbing there heads up and down or waving at him.
I think one of the things that Jacob really likes about this program is the animation. It is very well done. Letters might be flown onto the screen by a helicopter or beamed down from a spaceship. You just never know what is going to happen, it is all fun. However, it is not overwhelming. It is the right balance of fun and learning and Jacob was taken by it right from the start.
Letter Land has the same high quality graphics and rewards, but in this section you are introduced to the letters in each row of the keyboard. Jacob would be shown letters and then asked to find them on the keyboard. I was amazed. After two or three weeks of practice Jacob knew where all of the letters were on the keyboard almost immediately with no help at all!
There’s the problem, though. These two sections took two or three weeks. Don’t get me wrong. A child is encouraged to work with ASD Reading four or five times a week and, trust me, it never was boring for Jacob and I could see how well he was progressing. It was time truly well spent. So, what was the problem? Well, let me tell you a little secret about the Schoolhouse Review Crew. When we are chosen for a review, we are given five or six weeks to review that product from the time we receive it to the time we have to write the review. Well, I thought to myself, if it takes Jacob two or three weeks just to learn sequencing and where to find the letters on the keyboard, that just leaves us two or three weeks to see if the learning how to read section of ASD Reading really works for Jacob before I have to write the review.
However, we kept on going. By this time, though, Jacob liked the program so much that he was doing two or three lessons a day so he moved a bit quicker. So, we began with Level One. There are five levels in ASD Reading and in each level you learn enough words to be able to read six books. The ASD Reading website says that each level should take 10-15 weeks to complete, but when you break it down, that’s about two weeks per book. In Level One you learn 36 new words, however, you don’t only learn the words, you learn many variants of that word as well. For example, a child might learn the word “park”, but then he will also learn the variants “parks”, “parking” and “parked”. So in reality Jacob will be learning a lot more than 36 words in Level One.
Each lesson begins with showing Jacob a new word and making sure he knows what that word means. For example, one of the new words was boy. The computer showed the word boy while a voice pronounced the word. Jacob was then shown three or four pictures and he would have to pick the picture of the boy. Farther in the lesson he may have to type the word boy or he would be shown the word “boy” with some letters missing and he would have to fill in the missing letters. Then, they may add an “s” to the word to introduce a new variant or perhaps even a whole new word and he would have to go through a similar process again.
As I mentioned before, he has begun doing two or three lessons a day, so he whizzed through the words for book one and, to my amazement, read the first book aloud to me with hardly a mistake! He had never done that before! I knew that we had found the answer to his reading problems. ASD Reading!
Jacob likes the program because of the clever and well done animation and because of the reward factor (you also earn points and, after you have accumulated so many points you are rewarded with a page in your passport). I love ASD Reading for other reasons, though. Of course I like it because it has been our answer to Jacob learning how to read, but it is the process that they use that I really like. You see, ASD Reading has a built in program that monitors how well a child is doing and if a child needs more help in a particular area. If a child is catching on quickly then the program might move him along a little faster. If a child need help in something then the built in program might review a section automatically or give him more help in a specific area. I also like the fact that I get periodic progress reports and can go to the ASD Reading program myself to see how he is doing. Everything is done online using secure passwords. I think I love it as much as Jacob!
Something that is very unique about this program is that it was developed specifically for autism spectrum children. And, that is for all autism spectrum children even if they are non-verbal. I am a believer in this program and am very impressed with it. If you have a child anywhere on the spectrum I would encourage you to check it out.
This is one of those “WOW” reviews that I have talked about recently. I only give a review a “WOW” if it is extra special and made an impact on my children. ASD Reading by Reading Kingdom fits that requirement. It is definitely a “WOW” review. To find out more about ASD Reading or about Reading Kingdom just click on any of the highlighted links above. To find out what some of the other Schoolhouse Review Crew members had to say about ASD Reading and about another program by Reading Kingdom called Reading Kingdom Online, just click on the banner below. Happy Reading!